My anthropology of food and nutrition class is beginning to focus on food symbolism. I read an article for the class yesterday about how the health food movement in the United States resembles religion (“You Are What You Eat: Religious Aspects of the Health Food Movement” by Jill Dubisch); there are temples (health food stores), rabbis (so called experts), texts (magazines, books, blogs, etc.), all of which are centered around a particular worldview that requires an acceptance of certain beliefs, including the dichotomization of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ forces, i.e. ‘healthy foods’ vs. ‘junk foods,’ and in regards to the more hardcore movements around organic/local/etc. ‘nature’ vs. ‘culture’–the ideology implicated in this sector of the health food movement is similar to what my advisors and I have been discussing: a pre-industrial nostalgia constructing a post-industrial agriculture and food culture; the implication that American food culture has afflicted us in such a way that there is a need to return to ‘nature.’
I could possibly refine this article’s religious argument in the context of the PV’s local food movement with my data, as there seems to be many parallels. It reminded me of the maple farmer eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup at the farmer’s market and her expression of shame and a need for secrecy–as if she were ‘sinning’ in the ‘temple.’ Similarly, the same farmer’s upset around other farmers eating fast food at the farmer’s market because they are ‘not practicing what they preach’ signifies that there is an ideology which shapes certain practices, much like religion.
I also just read this really fascinating blog post about how food communicates different aspects of our identities and other social and cultural realities: